Lawrence Martin summarizes Stephen Harper's central problem very succinctly:
The Prime Minister’s problem is that ethics is taking over from economics as the dominant issue in the public mind. That’s a trend he has to reverse; it’s poison.
So far, he has ignored the problem. His strategy has been to take comfort in the company of loyalists. That is why Ray Novak is in charge of the PMO. But loyalty to the prime minister is getting a little thin. Martin writes that, according to one anonymous Conservative MP, the natives are restless:
There are more than enough Conservative dissidents to get the required number [who would threaten to leave the caucus]. Most, he said, are veterans who have their pensions locked up and don’t have much to lose in offending the powers that be.
Would the rebels go so far as to issue this kind of ultimatum? Don’t bet your banjo on it. But the fact that the idea is being discussed is noteworthy in itself. It shows that the days of Mr. Harper’s acting as if l’état, c’est moi are passing. To use Mr. Rathgeber’s words, backbenchers are no longer prepared to be treated like “trained seals.” They are emboldened and they have explosives at their disposal.
And revolt in Conservative ranks is not a new phenomenon:
If history is any indication, backbench unrest is something Mr. Harper had better heed. It’s damaged the Conservatives in the past. John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark faced crippling caucus rebellions. In 2001, senior members of the Canadian Alliance party left the caucus to protest against Stockwell Day’s leadership. They forced his hand and they were glad they did – he resigned the leadership, opening the door to Stephen Harper to take over the party and lead it to success under the Conservative banner.
Paul Adams believes that we have entered the post Harper era. Like Mark Twain's reported death, it's a little early to write Stephen Harper's obituary. Nonetheless, it's time for him to reap what he has sown. His cavalier treatment of people has caught up with him.